Over the course of a decade, Lewis Duncan led the College to new heights, leaving behind a stronger academic tradition, a brighter future, and a greater campus.
(Photo by Scott Cook)
“We stand on the shoulders of those who came before us and we strive to leave for those who follow us a college that is stronger, brighter, and greater.” – Lewis Duncan, 125th anniversary of Rollins College, November 4, 2010
When Lewis Duncan arrived at Rollins in the summer of 2004, the College community wondered what initiatives a space physicist who could calmly weather three hurricanes in six weeks would launch during his presidency.
Today, in the College’s 130th year, Rollins is increasingly diverse, financially strong, focused both outward on the world and intentionally inward on the overall development of its students—in President Duncan’s words, “an education of the mind and of the heart, of the body and the spirit.”
The Rollins community can celebrate the realization of dreams unimagined a decade ago and the continuing rewards of the deeds they will propel.
Since 2005, the President’s Internationalization Initiative has sent faculty to nearly 50 countries, and 75 percent of faculty have had at least one international experience. Beyond bringing expanded perspectives to the classroom, the shared experiences build real, personal connections across disciplines.
In the fall of 2004, Rollins’ undergraduate enrollment was 1,759. Ten years later, it was 1,932, with international students comprising 10 percent of the entering class. Enrollment of international students has increased 72 percent since 2004.
At the same time, the percentage of Rollins students engaging in international experiences increased dramatically. Since 2010, Rollins has ranked among the top 20 colleges of its type for percentage of students who study abroad.
Today approximately 70 percent of students in the traditional undergraduate program study internationally at least once during their Rollins career.
Several innovative collaborations with foreign institutions promise to further raise the College’s international profile. An agreement with Germany’s Reutlingen University permits students to earn degrees from Reutlingen and Rollins, while Kadir Has University in Turkey has created a 3 ½ –1 ½ engineering/MBA program in partnership with the Crummer Graduate School of Business. In 2013, the College signed a pioneering Memorandum of Understanding with O.P. Jindal Global University in India to bring cohorts of students to Rollins for their final two years of study, contributing significantly to the international character of the campus.
In 2008, the College’s trustees identified a hotel and conference center as a priority, deeming the project hard to accomplish but with high-impact results. In a stroke of good fortune, the College was able to purchase the site of the former Langford Hotel, which had stood undeveloped since 2003. And in a stroke of even greater good fortune, the Harold Alfond Foundation awarded a grant of $12.5 million that permitted the College to construct The Alfond Inn at Rollins. Under the innovative terms of the gift, net proceeds from The Alfond Inn flow to an endowment for scholarships for 25 years or until the endowment reaches $50 million, whichever comes later.
In its first full year of operation, The Alfond Inn surpassed projections and is already contributing to support the Alfond Scholars, who receive full scholarships—tuition, room, and board. The Alfond Scholars and their predecessors, the Cornell Scholars, are selected for their academic and leadership potential. Originally financed with discretionary funds from the bequest of George D. Cornell ’35 ’85H, the College has sponsored more than 75 Cornell and Alfond Scholars to date.
The Alfond Inn’s contribution to Rollins’ academic enterprise extends beyond funding scholarships. The inception of The Alfond Collection of Contemporary Art at Rollins College brought contemplation of works by contemporary masters and rising artistic stars to the campus’s Cornell Fine Arts Museum as well as the public spaces of The Alfond Inn. The collection, which tops 200 pieces, continues to grow.
In 2007, the Rollins community invited distinguished intellectuals from various disciplines to join them at a colloquy on “Liberal Education and Social Responsibility in a Global Community,” with the objective of inspiring and informing a student-centered curriculum for the new century, oriented to active citizenship. Among the participants were:
Maya Angelou ’85H
From those conversations grew the Winter Park Institute, created as a source of intellectual engagement for both the College and the community.
Since its inception, the Institute has welcomed intellectual stars such as:
Billy Collins ’08H, two-term U.S. poet laureate, who served as senior distinguished fellow of the Institute.
Paul Simon, 2008
Jean-Michel Cousteau, 2009
Edward James Olmos, 2010
David McCullough, 2011
Gloria Steinem, 2011
Jane Goodall, 2012
Oliver Stone, 2013
Michio Kaku, 2013
Ken Burns, 2014
Maya Lin, 2015
The curriculum kept pace with the changing demographics and interests of the student body.
The Crummer School expanded Early Advantage MBA offerings to meet the demand for high-quality business education for recent college graduates. It also discovered a niche at the opposite end of the graduate-education spectrum: an executive doctorate of business administration for experienced business executives seeking higher-level expertise.
President Duncan encouraged the Hamilton Holt School to tap its roots as a laboratory for curricular innovation and experimentation. Recognizing that aging baby boomers were actively seeking outlets for continuing education experience, the Holt School launched the Center for Lifelong Learning. In its first year, the Center enrolled more than eight times the number of anticipated Senior Tars (STARS) and earned national recognition as a model program. The Holt School is also actively exploring synergies with the multiple health entities at Lake Nona’s Medical City as well as programming for the ever-growing Central Florida community through its Center for Health Innovation.
The demolition of the Bush Science Center also demolished traditional thinking about the delivery of science education. The new facility is long on collaboration and short on isolation.
Faculty offices are dispersed to encourage conversations across the disciplines, and the building has 134 windows to foster engagement.
In 2006, Rollins was named the inaugural Florida Campus Compact Overall Engaged Campus of the Year. Since then, the recognitions haven’t stopped. The College earned Carnegie Community Engagement Classification in 2008, and was named to the President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll (one of six college and universities nationwide) from the Corporation for National and Community Service in 2010. In recognition of its burgeoning programming in social entrepreneurship and sustainability, in 2012, Rollins was named an Ashoka U Changemaker Campus—the 15th of 30 and the first liberal arts school in the South.
Like the College’s 12th president, Thaddeus Seymour ’84HAL ’90H, who also had a Dartmouth College deanship on his résumé, Lewis Duncan is a student of magic. He enjoyed introducing children to “The Magic of Science” at annual College events such as Halloween Howl, Holiday FunFest, and Pathways to College Day. Rollins students also discovered the message in the magic, described by one student as “the importance of thinking broadly and logically instead of just trusting one point of view.”
In 2008 Rollins added men’s and women’s lacrosse to its roster of varsity sports. Since then, the women’s team has advanced to the national semifinals not once, but twice.
In the course of Duncan’s presidency, the Tars made 78 NCAA postseason appearances and captured three national titles, 23 Sunshine State Conference championships, and the No. 9 national ranking for student academic success. Men’s soccer celebrated its first trip to the national finals (and some players’ first experience of snow). The College also logged its first NCAA Elite 89 Award recipient; the honor is presented to the student-athlete with the highest GPA at each sport’s national championship.
President Duncan maintained an almost unbroken record as intramural ping-pong champion.
When Rollins alumni return to campus for reunions, the tower of the Knowles Memorial Chapel is bathed in blue light—a signal of their presence on campus. President Duncan introduced the tradition to connect generations of alumni to the students who follow in their footsteps. It also marks his own salute to the College’s enduring motto, Fiat Lux—Let there be light.